$2,700 4WD 5-Speed: 1986 Dodge Colt Vista

I haven’t seen one of these 4WD wagons in years, maybe decades. This is a 1986 Dodge Colt Vista and it’s on Craigslist with an asking price of $2,700. A lot of money has gone into maintaining this vehicle. Now, about that exterior…

These were great vehicles, no really! Just talk to almost anyone who owned one. Of course, as always, there will have been bad experiences with them just like with any other vehicle on earth. Chrysler was in a long-term-relationship (as they say) with Mitsubishi and this is one of their offspring. It’s a rebadged and tweaked Mitsubishi Chariot, a first-generation model and Dodge offered them in the model years between 1984 and 1991. This is considered one of the first crossover vehicles due to it’s “tall-wagon” proportions and available 4WD system. This was normally a front-drive vehicle but with the 4WD option the driver could press a button on the shifter and the rear wheels would engage.

There’s the red button on the shifter to engage the 4WD. This is also a 5-speed which is even more unusual and desirable, at least for myself and a few thousand (hundred?) others who like to shift for him/herself. The interior has a medley of configuration options and this is a seven-passenger vehicle, sort of like a minivan and sort of like a big wagon. This Colt Vista only had two owners previously, the original owner and his brother who, unfortunately, sanded the exterior to get it ready for paint. You can see that the painting project never went farther than making the exterior look like heck.

This is Mitsubishi’s 4G63, 2.0L with around 88 hp. It’s not a lot of power but with that 5-speed manual and this vehicle weighing “only” 2900 pounds, it shouldn’t feel like you’re holding everyone else up on the road. The seller has done a lot of maintenance on this Colt with the only thing being left being that pesky, dull exterior. I’m not sure if I would do anything to the exterior, but that’s just me. Have any of you owned a 4WD Colt Vista? Would you restore the exterior or just drive it as is? I think this would make a heck of a winter vehicle for those of us in the snow belt.


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  1. Jeff Staff

    I’d still take a Civic RT wagon with AWD, but I wouldn’t turn this one down as a winter beater, either.

  2. Staab

    It would make a unique beach cruiser.

  3. Al Member

    I’d like my old Subaru Wagon with the similar type push button on the shift for the 4WD. Thing got me about 30 a gallon with the Thule roof rack and skis.

  4. Dennis

    Where is the car located?

    • David Wilk Member

      Portland, Oregon. That is why it has not disintegrated into a pile of rust. I am one of those fools who bought one of these new. Kind of a ‘worst of all possible worlds’ car. Not excellent at anything. Sorry Scotty, I know you love these oddities. This one better in theory than in practice I am afraid. I don’t think it’s been worth $2700 since about 1990.

  5. Stang1968

    I drove one of these about 12 years ago for a winter. It’s was a decent car in the snow. We used it on logging trails and dirt roads and it made it through all the snow of North Idaho just fine. spring thaw would get pretty muddy but the Colt still handled it.

  6. JamestownMike

    And this is on Barn Finds because?? I thought this was all about BARN FINDS!……..hello!

  7. Alan (Michigan)

    NOT a 4G63!
    That engine was a 2.0 DOHC. This is a SOHC motor!

    I drove an extremely low miles FWD version of this car just a couple of years ago, when car-hunting for one of my college-age sons. Even if it had been as nice as advertised, and actually ran well (needed carburetor work, IMO), I’d have likely passed. It just struck me as being extremely lightweight and fragile, very unlikely to do well in any kind of potentially injurious accident. As a DD? Kind of scary, actually.

    The Colt Vista/Mitsubishi Expo/Eagle Summit to have, if you want AWD, is the one from the early 90’s, IMO. I love the Mitsubishi imports, currently own 3 ’89’s. But be aware, these earlier series were “tin car” years. I don’t like them.

    • DSkro

      The 4G63 came in both SOHC and DOHC. this is a 4G63 motor. The posting is correct. I own one and can personally vouch as I’ve done extensive research into this vehicle as I’m currently restoring one into a sleeper.

      • Spacewagonn

        I just picked up a fwd version with a 3spd auto. I was wondering, if I can find a 4wd version that needs work, would all the 4wd and engine/trans swap over directly without any cutting/welding?

        I was also wondering what other Mitsubishi or Chrysler cars had the same suspension, I’m looking to lift it about an inch for it’s life as a mountain roadtripper for a couple summers before I want to lower it along with the 4wd and 4g63.

        Any tips towards my outlandish goals are appreciated.

      • DSkrobot

        @Spacewagonn I don’t know for 100% on that. I’m actually currently in the process of doing a build on mine. My Vista is on jackstands at home so when I get back from work, I’ll slide under there and look closely. From what my gut tells me, they wouldn’t have made two different shells of that car. They likely would’ve made all of them “4WD shells” and just not put the 4wd system in the 2wd models. That would’ve been more cost efficient. But good luck finding a 4wd for sale that’s in good enough shape to swap it over. What I’m doing is taking a 4G from an eclipse or an evo and swapping the drivetrain and essentially bits.

  8. Eskild

    In Europe this is named Mitsubishi Spacewagon 2.0 GLX……horribel automatic transmission on these cars.

  9. Bill in Ontario

    I bought one of these new. Only car I ever bought using totally objective criteria with no emotional connection. Worst new car I ever owned!!!!. Terrible quality.

  10. Bryan

    A friend of mine owned one of these years ago….funny story. She was driving down the interstate, and her little boy in the back seat yelled at her and pointed at a wheel that was rolling past the car as she slowed. Turned out it was her rear tire & wheel…and the car didn’t drop to the ground!

  11. chad

    is that weber?
    drop in a bigger 1, beef up the breaks…
    the CONCEPT sure sounds good (but ’80s mopowr?).

  12. John

    Why expose it to a northern winter’s salt as a DD? If you need an AWD DD get a beater Subaru or CRV and keep this thing alive.

  13. Wayne

    I was a Service manager at a Dodge/Chrysler dealer when these were new. I always was a Mitsubishi fan. (being an ex-rally driver). But these were junk when they were new! Wheel bearing failures at 6,000 miles, transmission/transaxle failures at 10,000 miles, and the list goes on. The fact that this thing is still running is a testament to the determination of the owner.
    I love different non-popular vehicles. (I will even build/modify/change one to be that way. But I would never even glance at one of these.

  14. That Guy

    Ray Magliozzi’s favorite car!

  15. Priscilla Miller

    These are the BEST. I drove one for years and yes it needed to be maintained but the speed, maneuverability and fuel economy could not be matched. The load capacity of the body…. we put a water heater in the back. The sound system was great and the ease that the seats reconfigured converted it from a 7 passenger van to a padded sleeper. Might not be the best in an accident but with the 5 speed tanny and light weight body you can more easily avoid a collisoin. I have a Outback now which is fine but the colt left a mark on me.

  16. smitty the welder

    Neat concept, a Japanese mini-wagon altered for Chrysler with a 2-4WD transfer case (earlier versions) or AWD (later), good brakes, long travel suspension. The engine in the photo is a G63B (carb is probably a 32/36 Weber, a big improvement). It had some glitches, and IMHO the only people who should consider one of these old orphans are people who have mechanical ability and a bit of hot-rodding/modifying experience. It’s not a soccer-mom’s car anymore, unless she’s a real gear-head, and it is not a car to restore to the original factory configuration. All of the problems peculiar to the Vistas (at least the earlier ones that I know) can be fixed to not be problems, but this work is not the sort of thing you hire someone to do.

    Like 1
  17. Bill Collier

    I owned one. Best car ever. We ran it into the earth. I just got another one, we lost our other one in 2000 at over 300k miles, and my plan is to make it like I wanted to do with the first one. I paid only $1000 but will get a new engine and transmission and kit it out, I will even lift it a bit! We loved that car!

  18. Dan Raffensperger

    We had an ( I believe ) 88, blue 4wd with roofrack and came with towing kit. It hauled our ancient “popup” trailer fine, and with just people inside was almost peppy. I think we had it about six years, before my youngest hit puberty and wouldn’t fit in the middle seats anymore, forget the back ones. When the kids were little they thought the third row was great. It did far better in the snow than I expected. The only maintenance issues I had were some odd electrical problems; they all seemed to be related to the wiring harness that ran through the front crossmember, but it was all stuff I was able to fix myself by running a few new wires. I looked this up because we were talking about good snow vehicles we had in the past, and I got nostalgic for my “mighty Vista”. Clearly I must have gotten one of the GOOD ones !

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